A “Novel” Way To Learn Venice

Before I travel, I like knowing as much about a new city as I can. And I am a map person, so I want to know my way around before my foot ever hits the pavement. In the last few years, a new and fun method has emerged to me:

Read mystery novels set in that city and follow along with a map.

Venice is the next city I want to master. Luckily for me, the magical place of canals, gondolas, and amazing architecture has inspired many writers over the years.

My method is simple. As I read, I have a map next to me and find all of the locations mentioned in the book. This takes a little time, but the neighborhoods, important buildings, and public transportation just come to life as you do this.

For Venice, I like Donna Leon’s series of mysteries featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti – sort a Venetian Hercule Poirot or Adrian Monk. Brunetti ingeniously solves a variety of murders, but, to me, the star of these stories is Venice. When I read the following passage, I got out my trusty maps to see exactly where it occurred:

“Late in the afternoon of the third Sunday in August, the shutters were pushed open on the windows of the second-floor apartment just off the Canale della Misericordia, not far from the Palazzo del Cammello.”

After some detective work of my own to find these places on the map, this exotic city felt more like home!

I also highly recommend Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice” and Michael Diblin’s “Dead Lagoon”.  Both are moving stories that live and breathe Venice.

Do you want to learn Stockholm or Sweden? Then read Steg Larsson’s wonderful trilogy: “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”, “The Girl Who Played With Fire”, and “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest”. These books are full of addresses, neighborhoods, and towns. For the person interested in learning this part of the world, I can think of no better way to do this than reading with a map nearby!

How do others learn a city before hopping on a place to visit it?

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